DONALD VICTOR SULLIVAN
1957 - 2022
Don slipped away into the next realm after having been granted the extra time he asked his Doctors for. He will be missed as a great conservationist, activist, political strategist, and photographer. Don will be lovingly remembered by his wife Susan, his daughter, Caitie, close friends, family, and acquaintances. Don was predeceased by his much-loved mother Marie-Lourdes Sullivan, and father Don Sullivan, Sr., by his Mentor and close friend Garry John Raven (Morning Star) of Hollow Water, by his dear friend Loa Henry, and friend and comrade John Loxley.
Don was born in Vancouver, educated and worked in Winnipeg and Montreal. As a young man, he left with his family for a few years to live on a sailboat in the Caribbean. A very special time that was always close to his heart. As a child growing up, he loved his summers at his paternal grandparents’ cottage on Lake of the Woods which garnered a life-long love of the Canadian Shield and Boreal Forest.
When Don decided to return from the Caribbean, he attended the University of Winnipeg and graduated with a BA in Political Science. Don was to say the least, very politically active on campus and this became a life-long drive. He’d found his groove. Don met his close friend Glen Koroluk at UofW, with whom he shared his love of wilderness, fishing and camping as two crazy canoe guys. They were close colleagues who worked together over the years on many East Side Lake Winnipeg issues. UofW Professor Jim Silver and his wife Loa Henry, became very important in Don’s life and he considered them ‘family’. Don worked together for many years, side by side with Susanne McCrea at the Boreal Forest Network, they made a formidable team, and were very close friends.
Don was a fairly quiet man who kept his own counsel, who moved mountains, who took his responsibilities very seriously. His character was a mix of kindness, empathy, caring, honesty, trustworthiness and reliability. His ethics and politics were outstanding. On the other hand, Don sure knew how to have fun. Didn’t mind conflict when fighting for a cause but outside of that, wanted his life to be love, peace and harmony. He was a chilled guy at home, and his home in the East Beaches became, as he named it “Sanctuary”. Sanctuary from the world and all its insanity on so many levels. A complex man who approached life through simplicity.
Don was the North America Coordinator for Taiga Rescue Network, headquartered in Winnipeg. He was a member of the Cho!ces group in Winnipeg. Don considered his time with Cho!ces and the people involved, a particularly rewarding period of his life. He developed many enduring friendships through the Friday morning group of Cho!ces, John Loxley, Shirley Lord, Jean Altemeyer, Richard Orlandgini. Don worked for Roland Penner as an Aid at the Manitoba Legislature. He was a former Special Advisor to the Government of Manitoba from 2009 to 2016. He sat on the Board of Canadian Dimensions Magazine. He was a Board Member of the Manitoba Coalition Against Racism and Apartheid, was a Board member of the Eastside Planning Initiative, sat on the Steering Committee East Side Planning Initiative, and on the Lake Winnipeg Advisory Board. He was the former Director of the Boreal Forest Network for over twenty years, and a recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for his outstanding contribution to his community. Don spent decades tirelessly working in different capacities to have traditional lands on the East Side of Lake Winnipeg, Pimachiowin Aki (the land that gives life), nominated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The successful designation was finally announced on July 1, 2018. He was thrilled that a life time of work had come to fruition.
Don was a multi-decade Volunteer at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, in the Hand Made Village.
During Don’s active years as a conservationist and activist for the Taiga Rescue Network and Boreal Forest Network, he travelled overseas to attend conferences and meetings, to far away places such as Russia, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Estonia and to Washington, DC.
For most of his life, Don was always up for a wilderness canoe trip, either with officials, associates, old friends or with his daughter Caitie, or on his own. In 2006 he was pleased to escort Robert Kennedy Jr. and his son Finn on a canoe trip into Cross Lake, and Poplar River, MB regarding outstanding Manitoba Hydro and East Side issues surrounding Poplar River. Before and while advising the Manitoba government he organized trips into Bloodvein, escorting Alex Shoumatoff, Associate Editor for Vanity Fair. As well, Don escorted National Geographic magazine tour up the East Side of Lake Winnipeg.
Wherever Don travelled, camped or had the time, he had his trusty NIKON at his side, and over the years took many stunning photographs, some of which landed in the pages of National Geographic and Canadian Geographic, amongst many other publications. The fall and its colours were a particular source of inspiration to him. Don was a prolific photographer who published a coffee table book entitled Landscapes from Manidoo Abi, A Photographic Journey of the East Side of Lake Winnipeg. Don enjoyed sharing his photographs online with anyone who was interested in discovering the beauty of his love of nature and in particular the East Side of Lake Winnipeg.
Don met his wife Susan a few times, very briefly at the Boreal Forest Conference at the UofW in the fall of 2002, and again in summer of 2008 within group discussions at his favourite watering hole, Cousins. A year later in 2009 they crossed paths again at Cousins, which led to their first date. They quickly discovered they knew many of the same people, and had worked on the same projects over the years, just on different teams. By Fall 2010 they were sure they were for each other and Don proposed. They moved to their new home in Lester Beach in May, 2011, leaving behind his West Broadway condo and Susan’s cottage in Crescentwood. As Don said, a new place to call “our own” on the edge of the Canadian Shield in the Boreal. In June on St. Jean Baptiste Day, they exchanged vows above the shores of Lester Beach with Caitie and Glen as Don’s attendants. Since then he lived his life mere minutes away from the East Shores of Lake Winnipeg. Don painstakingly maintained his Lester Beach home, inside and out, the decks, his hot tub where he spent time reflecting and enjoying social or alone time, his lovely tall Jack Pines which covered over a half acre property. He loved the winding pathway through the property and walked it daily with their dog Rio, his fire pit around which he spent many mornings, afternoons or evenings tending a fire. All of this brought love, happiness and peace into his existence. Don so enjoyed his screened-in porch off the living room. It was a quiet spot to listen to CBC on Sunday mornings, or sit out and have a libation and let the sun stream down and a breeze pass through. Magical evenings of music, glass of wine, in the glow and warmth of an old basket light. Each season end, he found it hard to say goodbye when he packed it up for the winter. Don celebrated each Spring, when his porch was ‘open for business’ as he said, yet once again. Don credited his Sanctuary, as the place that carried him through all the ups and downs of the last 11 years of his life.
Once out of the workforce, with a Conservative base Province, he couldn’t drum up interest in employing him. Don made the decision to take up golfing and joined the Victoria Beach Golf Club. He was a natural and quickly became an avid golfer. Participating in all the tournaments and windups, meeting and getting to know his fellow golfers. In the summer of 2018 he worked at the golf course club house, with general duties, which led to meeting, greeting, and chatting with the members, joining in on their morning coffee get togethers. All of this soon became the highlight of his day! He was saddened not being able to return to work the summer of 2019 due to his illness. He truly enjoyed all of his fellow employees there, and all the club members he had daily contact with. He made some special friends through golfing that he truly valued.
Don was adored by his ‘little nuisance’ a Shih Tzu, Rio and by his pride and joy, Siberian Forest Cat, Sabai. Even though Don was a prolific landscape photographer, it didn’t stop him from taking hundreds of shots of Rio and Sabai and proudly posting the best of them on Facebook. Facebook became a great outlet in retirement as well. He enjoyed all the political and intellectual stimulation and debates he got into with his various groups.
In his last years he became passionately involved and was kept very engaged with What the Frack Manitoba and Camp Morningstar. Camp Morningstar is where Don’s heart lived. His visits there, Hollow Water and to Manigotagan sustained his soul. His visits were made even more meaningful, when his daughter Caitie accompanied him.
Don and Susan, enjoyed annual camping and RV trips which were no end of calamity and adventure. They took multiple trips (dog and cat in tow and sometimes Caitie) to Canmore, Rushing River, Red Lake in Ontario, Southern Saskatchewan, and Riding Mountain Park, Birds Hill Park, Grand Beach Park, and many more stops along the way. From a pop-up to various vintage travel trailers, each trip was filled with encounters with nature, a plethora of photographs and some rather hilarious adventures. You’re never going to believe what happened . . .. was pretty every day on those trips.
Don believed every day was a new day, a new start, and each day he started his day, with a smile, happy, relaxed, doing what he loved to do, reading the news and having a good cup of coffee without any interruption.
There are many, many folks not mentioned here whose paths Don crossed throughout his life, that were very special to him, you all know who you are and how much he appreciated time and shared causes with you.
According to his wishes, simple cremation has taken place, and his ashes have been spread in certain areas of importance to him.
Thank you to Dr. Ian Alexander of Selkirk, MB who took great care of Don, and assisted him in making best choices available throughout his cancer journey and made the final weeks in Selkirk Hospital as comfortable for Don as possible. Thank you to Cancer Care Manitoba (Selkirk and HSC), for the concern, support and care. Thank you to our very good friend, and Don’s long time activism partner, Susanne McCrea for caring and for the GoFundMe, which raised funds at the time of diagnosis that eased the stress of the extra hidden costs for rural residents associated with cancer. Thank you, Glen Koroluk, for visiting Don regularly, you brightened his life greatly during a difficult time. Thank you to Jim Silver who opened his home to us throughout diagnosis and treatments and accompanied Don to appointments. Thank you to Eileen Wiebe who shared and offered up her home many times through this difficult cancer journey with love and understanding from the heart. Thank you to all our friends for all the lovely supportive cards and contents, flowers which lit the path with love and encouragement.
Care and arrangements by Ethical Death Care of Winnipeg, MB.
Don's family kindly requests that all of his friends and relatives take a few minutes to honour his memory by watching the photo-biography above. Please, also consider sharing your own photos, memories, and stories by making use of the comment section on this page.
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